Maiden Aunts & Flighty Young Madams


This post was co-written with Michael Gray who has researched spankings in the British theatre from 1930-1960.

It was an era when the drawing-room comedy reigned supreme – polite, light-hearted romantic plays which reflected the lifestyle of the well-to-do upper middle classes. Michael’s discoveries draw back the lace curtains to reveal a buttoned-up, mannered world where strict stepmothers and severe maiden aunts ruled the roost. Any flighty young madams who stepped out of line could expect to be dealt with in ways which must have surprised and delighted gentleman members of the audience.

Update November 2012: The still that I’ve added at the top shows Mary Pickford being spanked by her aunt in Pollyanna. Although it comes from an American movie and not a British stage play, I think it captures the F/F spirit behind this post’s title perfectly and gives us a good idea how one of Wilfred Massey’s stage spankings might have looked (on a personal note, the picture was one of the first spanking photos I ever saw, in a book about MGM film studiios, and remains an all-time favourite). Another version of the same scene has recently appeared on ebay. Thanks to Richard Windsor for finding this.


Many aficionados of spanking tend to be collectors of ephemera. Our fascination for all things spanking leads us down all sorts of obscure alleys. We investigate old films, old books, old newspapers and old comics. But what about the theatre? Once a play’s run is over it has vanished. It no longer exists except in memory. Or does it?

Stage play scripts have for many years been an invaluable source for research into theatre spankings. There were many such scenes in British plays from the 1930s through to the early 60s. We shall never see most of them, but at least we can read what happened and conjure them up in our mind’s eye.

Theatre and cinema have certain similarities so it is hardly surprising that the Golden Age of Cinema Spanking was reflected to a considerable extent in the theatre. Nor should it surprise us that the plays with the best spanking scenes are not always top of the range. We would not go to Shakespeare (despite Kiss Me Kate) or Chekhov or Arthur Miller for our spanking treats any more than we go to Renoir or Rossellini or Hitchcock (whose fetishes were of a different order) at the movies.

sf 02

One company in particular in Britain has preserved a notable collection of play scripts. I propose a toast to Samuel French, who still have their own shop in London (the edge of Fitzroy Square last time I looked). They still sell scripts there though most of those I am about to feature will probably be absent. But they should be orderable, and are also available in the British Library.

Wilfred Massey is the first name from that bygone era that I intend to invoke. He was a Lancashire fellow, and wrote pieces that were part comedy and part mystery. Barely a single play of his goes by without at least the threat of a spanking.

I’m giving Massey pride of place in this article because he was so clearly one of us, but there are two things that have to be said about him. The spankings, if they materialised, were always off-screen, and they never involved a man. Since none of us are ever going to see a Massey play the first point may not be a great problem. As for the second, Massey liked strict, severe maiden aunts, and flighty young madams who caused them apoplexy.

The Price of Fame was not typical Massey. Tessa was a teenage girl whose father had remarried. Tessa tried to be as awkward as she could with her stepmother.

Eventually the stepmother had a “this has got to be done” moment. She took hold of a hairbrush and then took hold of Tessa. The girl can’t believe what is happening to her as she is led off-stage. The audience then heard the unmistakable sounds of a good old-fashioned spanking as Tessa had the hairbrush applied to her bottom.

Such Things Happen is vintage Massey, a quite extraordinary piece. Valerie was rather older than Tessa, in her early 20s. Her maiden aunt (Aunt Ursula I think) disapproved greatly of Valerie’s cheeky attitude and said three or four time over the course of the play that Valerie needed her bottom spanked.

One of the extraordinary things about this play is that more than one script has survived, and the way the spanking is resolved is entirely different in the two versions. It’s as if Massey so enjoyed writing this piece and indulging himself that he went back to it more than once.

In one version Valerie takes off one of her tennis shoes and says to Aunt Ursula:

“You either use that on me right here and now or you never again use the words “spanked” or “bottom” when referring to me”.

Aunt Ursula’s bluff is called, Valerie remains unspanked, and the subject is never raised again.

In the other extant version it is Aunt Ursula taking the initiative. She suffers Valerie’s impertinence once too often and chases the girl upstairs where she administers a sound spanking to Valerie’s bottom. When Valerie re-emerges she is no longer the self-possessed young woman she had been minutes before, more like a hysterical naughty child with a mighty sore bottom.

Now let’s look at two rather different examples. Both of these involve a spanking actually taking place on stage, and in each case it is a man spanking a woman.

Roger the Sixth by Joseph Carole is a reverse case scenario from The Price of Fame. Here it is the mother who has remarried, presumably for the sixth time! She has two bratty children, a boy of about nine or ten and a girl, Penny, in her late teens. Roger disapproves of both of them. He gives the boy an offscreen spanking before tackling Penny centre stage.

She splutters the usual “Don’t you dare” stuff before being bundled over his knee and given a first rate spanking. The script says that when she is released there are tears in her eyes, which also blaze with fury as she nurses her smarting and outraged bottom.

ShirleyAnneFieldB01With Fools Rush In by Kenneth Horne (not I believe the same Kenneth Horne who so wonderfully entertained us all those years back in Round the Horne ) we are back in the realm of off-stage spankings.

Again we have a courting couple, which somehow seems the right expression for these parlour comedies, and in the original production I believe the girl was played by the delectable Shirley Ann Field.

Father and fiancé both agreed what Shirley needed, but father deemed her “too big” for a paternal spanking. The valiant fiancé steps in and follows Shirley off-stage. She’s wearing a pair of figure hugging trousers and six resounding spanks and six anguished yelps are heard.

I recall that a girl got spanked with a slipper in Ronald Millar’s The More the Merrier but the details escape me. There is a picture though:

themorethemerrier - ronaldmillar

Ivor Novello in his own way seems to have had a bit of a thing about spanking, and his productions are still sometimes put on. A young woman spanks another young woman (which always seems a bit odd) in Full House. And there is a better but rather jokey spanking in Perchance to Dream.


Finally, Friendly Relations by James Liggatt involves a courting couple. The spanking comes right at the end of the third act when the fiancé eventually decides for “the sake of their future marriage” that a man’s got to do what a man’s got to do and takes his struggling girlfriend, Anne, over to the sofa and turns her over his knee.

She gets her bottom spanked as the curtain falls. The rest of the cast come back on and shake his hand for daring to do what all seem to agree was sorely needed – meanwhile Anne remains over her fiancés knee having her bottom spanked.

friendlyrelations - patphoenixspanked1952

There is a photo of a production of this showing the spanking. Anne is played by Pat Phoenix, who was shortly to become famous as Elsie Tanner in the long running TV soap opera Coronation Street.

This brings our story to an abrupt end because Coronation Street was inspired by the new “kitchen sink” dramas which started to appear in the late 1950s. Writers such as John Osborne and Arnold Wesker led a new wave of gritty, realistic playwrights who had little time for the decorum of the drawing room and by the 1960s flighty madams and hairbrush-wielding maiden aunts had made way for a new generation of “angry young men”.

But all was not lost.

lh 01An early episode of Coronation Street contained a spanking scene, when rebellious teenager Jennifer Moss (left) was given something to shout and holler about by her screen father. And Pat Phoenix herself as the fiery Elsie must have got a sense of deja vue when she was threatened with a spanking by her macho lover Len Fairclough.

Coronation Street was set in the fictional town of Wetherfield in Wilfred Massey’s home county of Lancashire. I’m sure he would have quickly learned to love this new form of drama!

17 thoughts on “Maiden Aunts & Flighty Young Madams”

  1. Fools Rush In premiered in 1947, so it’s a safe bet that Shirley Anne Field (who was born in 1938) did not play the spanked bride. My files are split between locations on two continents so it is not easy for me to check, but my memory suggests that the female lead may have been played in two different early productions (one of them probably the first) by Dulcie Gray and Brenda Bruce. I think Michael is perhaps misremembering the fact that, in the 1949 film version, the part was played by 19-year-old Sally Ann Howes. I can’t remember whether the spanking made it into the film.

    From files which are with me here, I can add some details to Michael’s great post.

    Roger the Sixth had quite a few early productions in London with short runs. The first was at Camberwell Palace in 1954, with Bruce Gordon and Jill Melford (a foxy actress who I believe later became quite well known on British television). In 1957 it opened at the Strand Theatre with Mary Law ending up across the knee of an actor well named for his part: Gordon Tanner. It came back to the Strand in 1960, with Gordon Tanner still in the part, but this time he was spanking the blonde Jill Adams. Production photographs I have seen show her wearing a little black dress for the part (but sadly don’t show her being spanked…)

    As Michael rightly says, we shall not see most of these plays revived, but the scenarios are enjoyable, some of the spankings were photographed for the press, and it’s also pleasant to recall that some well known actresses did actually get spanked during their careers in the theatre. Elsie Tanner is only the tip of the iceberg. For instance:

    Diana Churchill was spanked in a revival of Full House – staged I think at the time her father (Sir Winston) was the British Prime Minister!

    Jessie Matthews (famous singer) was spanked in a 1940 production of the pantomime Aladdin. Aladdin seems to be a good bet for spanking scenes: much later, in the 1970s, productions featured spankings administered to Joanna Lumley (by rock singer Pete Townsend) and comedy actress Aimi MacDonald.

    As late as 1990, Lalla Ward (best known as a Doctor Who girl) was spanked in a revival of the 1940s comedy Another Love Story.

    The French comedy The Little Hut features a spanking scene. The play was much revived for twenty years or so, and this meant OTK for, among others, Bond Girl Eunice Gayson (1960) and swinging sixties glamor girl Imogen Hassall (1972).

    A 1951 revival of the original stage version of The Girl Who Couldn’t Quite meant a sound spanking for Lana Morris (one of the stars of the 1967 television adaptation of The Forsyte Saga).

    The 1950 film version of The Girl Who Couldn’t Quite is a slight disappointment, because so much of the spanking scene is made up of closeups with only one or two slaps seen making contact. But Elizabeth Henson didn’t escape spank-free, because in a revival of It’s Never Too Late in November 1952 she got a week’s worth of spankings. The original production (in Chesterfield a few months earlier) featured in my opinion one of the unlikelier actresses to find herself OTK: Margaret Tyzack, who was later well known as Claudius’ mother in the television I Claudius! (Sadly the film version with Sarah Lawson cut out the spanking.)

    And finally… anyone of our persuasion watching the film The Seventh Veil probably wishes that James Mason had used his stick across a more interesting part of Ann Todd than her knuckles. Don’t despair: she did get spanked by Paul Rogers when she played the title role in The Taming of the Shrew at the Old Vic in 1960!

  2. Awesome comment, Harry. One of the best I’ve ever had on this blog. Thanks.

    I’m still only just taking all this info in, but there’s some names in there that made my pulse race!

    Joanna Lumley for a start! Wonder if Townsend used his famous “windmill” guitar style during the spanking!! 🙂

    And Aimi Macdonald was a particular favourite of mine back in the day. I recently heard from a reader who told me that she was also spanked in a Midlands TV gameshow during the 1970s dressed in a brown school uniform. She was really naughty and spankworthy. I used to watch her whenever she came on TV in the hope she might get spanked. I’m not a bit surprised that she did – (at least twice!) – she was made for it! Shame there’s no pictures though.

    I have seen a picture of Jessie Matthews being spanked in Alladin. Michael and I have talked about pantomime quite a lot and we are both of the opinion that there must have been many pantomime spankings down the years that have gone unrecorded.

    Re Diana Churchill: Love the idea of the Prime Minister’s daughter being spanked on stage!

    I’ve sent an email to Michael asking him if he’s seen your additions to his post and whether he would like to respond re Shirley Ann Field etc. And by the way, if you’d ever like to write a guest post on here yourself Harry – on any subject at all – just drop me an email 🙂

    Another play which hasn’t been mentioned so far is Molly by Simon Gray. There’s a picture of this on Chross’ page and Michael saw the original production with Billie Whitelaw as the spankee. I asked him to explain the plot and to describe the spanking (how many swats, what reactions etc) He wrote back:

    “I’m not absolutely sure about this but I think there could have even been two spanking scenes. It was a running gag, a way for the husband to get a bit interested. I think the pretext was that the wife wouldn’t stop smoking.

    The spanks were rather light taps I seem to recall. In the main (or only?) scene seven or eight, nine or ten.. Billie Whitelaw didn’t react much. To give her credit (and she’s a fine actress) I think the point was that she held her husband in utter contempt, and was just going along with this game as she saw it for an easy life. And he was too repressed or frightened of her to really spank her properly. So she just lay there, not exactly gritting her teeth (and certainly not from any pain) but just bored and going through the motions. Not really the sort of premise for a good spanking scene in my opinion!

    Then she told the gardener she had the affair with of what her husband did to her to see what his reaction was (non-plussed and inarticulate). Spanking was certainly referred to enough and Simon Gray from his overall personality could have been a spanko, but I didn’t get much of a feel for it in this play and I don’t think he introduced spanking into any of his other works. It also occurs to me (I don’t know the answer to this) that the play was based on a real life murder trial (Rattenbury) and spanking may have been a feature of the actual case and Gray just incorporated
    it into his play.”



  3. Harry,

    Michael has been trying to leave a comment but couldn’t get it to ‘submit’ so he’s emailed the following:

    “An excellent post, Harry. You are very knowledgable.

    FOOLS RUSH IN I have previously commented to Valdor that I am probably beginning to have “senior moments”. I am sure you are right. I have mixed up Shirley Anne Field with Sally Ann Howes. I basically read these playscripts over 40 years ago and though I have revisited them occasionally I was really writing from memory. I can’t really remember who Sally Ann Howes was but I do recall the name.

    THE LITTLE HUT I seem to recall that there was no spanking scene in the movie because Ava Gardner refused to be spanked.

    LA FILLE MAL GARDEE Not yet mentioned since we were concentrating on plays. But Nadia Nerina has just died. I well remember seeing it on my grandmother’s TV back in 1960. I was transfixed as the girl was chased around the garden by her “mother” (a man in drag, more shades of British panto), caught and put over her mother’s knee.

    A series of skirts and petticoats were lifted up and she got spanked across her panties. That was the Frederick Ashton revival and Nerina played Lise, La Fille”

  4. LA FILLE MAL GARDEE: This is a favorite of mine because it is an unambiguously mainstream work where the spanking is administered on the girl’s panties, with the skirt raised. The revised version with Ashton’s choreography premiered in January 1960 and it has since been revived all over the world. If anyone doesn’t know the story, the wayward daughter Lise is set to churn milk by her mother (a ‘pantomime dame’ character danced by a man) but goes off to play with her friends. And when her mother returns, it’s OTK time!

    Because of the way ballet companies work, the role of La Fille Fessee (as we might like to think of her) is often split between several different dancers in the same production, dancing in different performances. Although typically it’s the clog dance ad the ribbon dance that get the most attention, I was amused to see that, when it was revived by Birmingham Royal Ballet in 2006, it was the spanking that got pride of place in the company’s publicity, with photographs of the production’s two different Lises in the traditional position with their skirts up!

    Just one small thing, Michael. Naturally I don’t presume to dispute your happy memory of seeing the ballet on television at your grandmother’s house, but I wonder if your recollection of the date might be slightly out? The ballet (in its Ashton version with the spanking) has been televized five times, I believe. In reverse order of date:

    The Royal Ballet production shown on the BBC a few years ago. Rather disappointing spanking, I thought, with an ill chosen camera angle.

    The Australian Ballet version with Fiona Tonkin (2000). Available on DVD. The best I’ve seen, because the production allows the spanking to be already underway when farmer Thomas walks in to interrupt. I think the original intention was for the Thomas to arrive just in the nick of time to save Lise from the spanking: the music builds up and up with a ‘this is it, this is finally IT’ tone as Lise is put across her mother’s knee and her skirts are lifted, there’s a single high chord as the first smack falls and then it segues directly into the pompous farmer’s theme as Thomas walks in and the widow realizes with embarrassment that her daughter’s pantied bottom is on display to the new arrival and quickly puts the girl’s skirts back down and lets her up. (The spanking is always staged with Lise’s head angled upstage, so that it’s the other end that Thomas sees as he arrives with his idiot son.) The Australian version has several smacks administered during the ‘buildup’ music, which is gratifying even if it doesn’t quite fit the score. Tonkin also does a very good job with her pose when OTK: the DVD is well worth freezeframing for the different leg positions as she is spanked. Unlike most other versions I’ve seen, she is wearing ordinary white panties, not ruffled ones.

    An earlier Royal Ballet version with Lesley Collier was shown by the BBC in 1981 and it too is available on DVD. It’s closer to what I take to be the originally intended choreography, in that the spanking is aborted after the first smack, but there is an excellent look of mystification on Collier’s face as she realizes she is no longer being spanked and doesn’t understand why (because of the direction she’s facing, away from the newcomers).

    The National Ballet of Canada production, with Karen Kain, was screened by CBC in 1979.

    And finally, the original Nadia Nerina production was shown by the BBC on December 27, 1962…

    … which leads me to wonder whether this was the one you saw, Michael, or whether on the other hand there might have been an even earlier televizing in 1960…?

  5. Harry, Michael has replied to your latest excellent comment:

    “Hi again, Harry.

    Glad to hear that you are such a fan of Fille. I certainly am. Once again I am sure I stand corrected. This was not so much a senior moment as an assumption. The memory at my grandmothers is crystal clear though I have nothing concrete to place it in a particular year. I had just assumed that since the production opened in 1960 it was televised the same year. But 1962 it could well have been. Over Christmas sounds right. So I was in fact 15 at the time not 13. Interesting.

    Two points on the details of the choreography. Firstly Lise has in fact already been spanked before she is put over her mother’s knee. She’s been previously caught smooching with Colas and her mother takes hold of her and plants a number of stinging spanks across her bottom while she is standing up. Lise takes these with a bit of wincing but without further distress.

    Then she misbehaves again and realises this time she’s due a serious spanking and tries to escape, but is caught and goes across her mother’s knee. I would say originally the spanking had already commenced when the visitors arrive, and my impression is that only in more modern productions is it dispensed with. She certainly got four of five spanks in the 1960/62 version. When she’s let up she seems a bit tearful and is definitely rubbing her smarting bottom.

    (And I think later in the ballet she’s playing with a girl doll and puts it across her knee and spanks it.)

    I’m not sure I’ve seen on TV since but I’ve watched it on stage (the first act, then I go to the pub!)several times since and the spanking scene does seem to get diluted these days.

    Sorry, my memory doesn’t function as well as yours, Harry, so I can’t quote dates, companies or ballerinas involved.

    All the best.


  6. And a few extra thoughts of my own:

    Yes, whenever this production is staged there’s more than one ballerina that gets spanked – that’s a good point. There was a production in Paris last year with Dorothee Gilbert as Lise. I read a review which said her understudy Myriam Ould Braham was then replaced by Mathilde Froustey when she got injured. At least 3 Lises, but I couldn’t find a single picture. The review did mention the spanking though:

    “The spanking of Lise provoked hisses of pain around us in the audience, and the concern for cette fille was palpable.”

    I do have the two Birmingham pictures, and an old black and white still which I think is Nadia Nerina. I also posted a video clip last year. Perhaps you could clarify which production it is, Harry.

    Michael makes a good point about the smacks that are administered BEFORE the spanking. These were well applied in the production that was on the BBC a few years back. I don’t share your low opinion of this one Harry. Yes, the camera was quite distant from the action, but the ballerina was very attractive. It was my first time – I had never seen the ballet before – and I was totally charmed!!


  7. The video clip you posted, Valdor, is the Australian production with Fiona Tonkin. Point me in the direction of the b/w still and I’ll see if I can identify it too. I’m vicariously glad you liked the more recent production more than me (on the principle of spreading a little happiness); I wonder if my disappointment comes from having already seen what I would rate as two much better versions…?

    I’ve never managed to access a written script for the Fille choreography, so my inferences about the staging of the spanking derive from three things: my judgement of how the music seems to be working relative to the action; the influence of the Collier production, which was the first one I saw; and the fact that most of the standard writeups of the ballet’s storyline, going back to the 1960s, say something along the lines of ‘her mother is about to spank her’ (rather than is in the process of spanking her, if you see what I mean). As always with history, you have to be careful not to confuse what actually happened with what you would *like* to have happened – which is why it’s an especial pleasure to have a reliable eyewitness report that proves me wrong – thanks, Michael!

    You’re right to point out that maternal smacks are also administered before the OTK scene, though I think it’s a moot point whether this earlier sequence can be called a spanking. I have a slight bee in my bonnet about the way our terminology is being eroded and growing less precise, no doubt because we want to make the most of every crumb that comes our way… but when I read that an actress has been ‘spanked’, only to find that the scene in question is just a single swat on the backside, I inevitably end up rather disappointed. For me, there is a meaningful distinction between a smack on the bottom (which can be administered in any position) and a spanking (administered after the recipient has been placed in a position specifically for the purpose, usually OTK). Both are enjoyable, but a spanking, in the sense I understand the word, is the ‘money’. So when Valdor writes that Aimi MacDonald was ‘spanked’ in a 1970s gameshow, my first reaction now is to wonder, ‘Was she *actually* spanked?’ I delay my ‘huzzah’ because I’m not really sure what is being described.

  8. Hi Harry,

    Thanks for identifying the clip. I thought it was probably the Australian one from your description. (no frilly knickers!!) I’ve checked the black and white picture and it definitely is Nadia Nerina, (because it says so in the image file name!)

    This is the info on the Aimi MacDonald “spanking” that I received (from a knowledgable and experienced reader):

    “I did see Aimi MacDonald get spanked by Bob Monkhouse, She was in a classroom sketch, wearing a brown gym slip and yellow sash, and was put over his lap, and her slip raised, and her brown school type knickers smacked. One of the Midland companies from Birmingham presented it.”

    I’d say that’s worth a big huzzah!! 🙂

    Any further details on the (2) Alladin ones Harry?


    There’s not much more detail to give on the Aladdin scenes, I’m afraid. The production with Aimi MacDonald was seen by a friend of mine in the ’70s (I was living in another country at the time). The report is trustworthy but was short on detail. The file with my jottings after the conversation (this was pre-computer!) is not to hand, but my memory suggests that it *may* have been staged in Slough in 1973. I also seem to recall a reference to waving legs! (And Aimi had plenty to wave…)

    I am still on the trail of the production with Joanna Lumley. My source of information was Pete Townsend’s mention of the spanking in an interview he did for Radio Times nine years ago. There is an online transcript here: (I have verified this in a library copy of the magazine.) Again I think the information is perfectly trustworthy, but I’m still fitfully trying to find out precisely where and when the production was staged. As you and Michael will certainly know, theater history is not as easily researched as films!

    Over the years I have also seen OTK stills from two other productions of Aladdin, from 1946 (with Binnie Hale) and 1951 (with Jeannie Carson, who was spanked by Jerry Stovin in the early 1960s television adventure series Zero One). They were nice shots, but it must be added that they weren’t spanking scenes: in both cases the actress was OTK to have her shorts patched by the pantomime dame!

  10. Ah yes – the old sowing up the seat of the britches scene! And what’s the betting that the dame “accidentally” pricked Aladdin in the bottom with the needle once or twice?!

    Seems like Aimi MacDonald spankings are a bit like buses. You wait over THIRTY YEARS for one to come along and then….

    Thanks for the Pete Townsend link. What a find buried away in the Radio Times! (back in the day when it still had articles that were that long!) And all in the name of a play on Radio 3 of all things. (btw just how ironic are the comments on rock stardom and Noel Gallagher in the light of Townsend’s subsequent arrest on child porn charges.)

    I found the picture of him in a frock with his beard and Joanna unfortunately cut out, but that doesn’t get us very far. Interesting that he said the press used the picture out of context to imply that he was gay. Shame they didn’t use a picture of him spanking Joanna to imply that he was a perv as well!!

    Good luck with any future researches into this topic. But barring a one-in-a-million lucky find, I suspect any Lumley-inspired “Huzzahs” will remain tantalisingly out of earshot!

    1. Hi Richard: I see what you mean about the version Chross has – it’s a bit gloomy. I’ve had this one for a long time and I’ve been looking for an opportunity to use it. As I said in the post, it was one of the first spanking pictures I ever saw as a kid, and I used to go into the bookshop just to look at it because I couldn’t afford to buy it!

  11. Aimi MacDonald-I remember her as a schoolgirl in a Bruce Forsyth Generation Game skit in which he gave a schoolboy six of the best.

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